Importance Of Ethics In Decision Making Education Essay

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Ethics are an important part of decision-making but students aren't taught to think ethically. They do not understand what ethics is. They do not understand the difference between ethics and morals and yet aren't two of the SLO's in the computer science framework related to Ethical Behaviour? So how do we go about doing this? Sure we could just preach to them about what they should and should not do and the so-called reasons for this. This method would be fast and then we can move on to more interesting things, but teaching in this fashion we will lose a great opportunity to teach students ethical thinking. Plus if we were just to preach to the students it would go in one ear and out the other. So in order to understand if it would be a good idea to teach ethics properly to students we need to see where the students are at. We need to do this to see if teaching ethics is a right for them. We also need to see what computer ethics is and what it entails and lastly we need to look at the benefits of teaching ethics in a computer course.


In order to see it is a good idea to teach ethics to students we need to look at the students. Perhaps the moragity of students understand ethics and thus don't need to be taught. Maybe it is better to tell them what to do and not get them to think about the reasons why. If we were to teach students ethics would they find them useful. These all the things we need to know before we decide whether it is or is not a good idea to teach ethics to students. Let's start off by looking at the skills the students already have. The article Computer Literacy: Implications for Teaching a College-Level Course by Nitham M. Hindi is an older article that talked about what computer skills students have. It noted that computer skills are very essential to business and it recognizes students do not have the appropriate skills. Students nowadays will change jobs at least 10 times and change careers at least three times. The importance of computer skills is not lost. In the faculty of education we need to take a computer usage class even though they won't call it that. Also many other faculties including business need to take a computer usage class. This article also noted that many students who took a computer course in high school had a vast knowledge of printers, the Internet and hard drives. Some of the students also had knowledge of virus protection operating systems and display units. Although students had a lot of knowledge about the how tos, they do not have knowledge about the "softer" issues. This knowledge includes social issues, ethical issues, global issues, and legal issues. It seems like not much has changed. In computer science, film and photography, or graphics the focus is on the how to. The sociological side isn't shown. In a graphics class where the students are working on Photoshop why not talk about the social issues of retouching photos. One side to this issue is Photoshoping pictures to create an unreal sense of beauty. This article goes on to say that men were two times more likely than females to have discussed ethical issues in a computer course. This points out another interesting fact. That is that females are more likely not to have looked at any social ramifications of computers. During my research I noticed an interesting theme that emerged. This theme suggested that discussing social ramifications of computers may make computer courses more interesting to females. In fact this was a common thread. I even found an article called Gender and computer ethics By Alison Adam which disputed this. Either way thinking in the social side might hook different people with different perspectives. I also found another article that mentioned that women's confidence is often undermined in computer courses. This quote is from a woman who had a lot of programming experience that took a computer science course she said that

Then I got here and just felt so incredibly overwhelmed by the other people in the program (mostly guys, yes) that I began to lose interest in coding because really, whenever I sat down to program there would be tons of people around going, "My God, this is so easy. Why have you been working on it for two days, when I finished in five hours?

I remember how computer science was. I went through the whole program and got my degree. So I know this is how we treat everybody. We procrastinate and leave everything to the last-minute. We gloat when we complete assignments fast. We brag and show off. Perhaps studying ethics or other humanitarians may make the atmosphere more open and friendly. This article also points out that women may have the same skills as men but are given lesser roles and because of this it has become a male dominate industry. The article goes further and suggests that because it is male dominated that everything computer from the interface to the chip layout is men oriented. This could leave women confined to systems which men have created and these systems may not be ideally suited to them. I think this is a preposterous idea. I don't see how something can be oriented towards one gender or another. If I said I don't see guys complaining about the interface of their ironing boards. I would be called out as a biget and a sexist, but isn't it the same argument. There are a lot of things that have been designed by females and I don't hear guys complaining.

It's impossible to fathom how something designed by one gender will have negative effects on the other. I do have a problem with the fact that women, with the same skill set as men, do not get the same jobs. This points out a growing need for the teaching of ethics and if computers do have a gender bias, hopefully equal opportunities will create a balance and this bias will henceforth be eliminated.

The article entitled Teaching Information Ethics to High School Students by Kathy Lehman looks at a lot of plagiarism students do. It looks at the problem from a librarian point of view and what a library should do to remedy the problem of plagiarism.

The librarian said that not very many of the 11th grade students felt guilty downloading music without paying for it. They just do not think about the livelihood of the individuals. They do not think about what it takes to invent or create music or the amount of effort involved. Those students that are 17 years or older do not feel very guilty about downloading music illegally even though they do understand the ramifications. The students do have a sense of morality. They recognize the implications of unethical behaviour when it comes to misuse of a friend's e-mail or pictures and they understand the dangers of predators and thus keep private information off the Internet. Basically the author states that they teach the grade 11 students the ramifications of illegally copying music but when the students reach the 12th grade they could care less. If we use the same approach teaching the ethics framework in computer science we do better to just scrap that component. Perhaps we should not preach to the students or to focus on a specific facet of the ethics debate but to have the students create their own ethics. If they are going to copy music they should have to defend their act ethically. I think our goals should be for students to use ethics to create reason. The focus should not be on whether they do or do not copy music. As teachers we should focused on the bigger picture. We need to focus on learning objectives and not commercial objectives.

The article entitled Teaching Ethics to High School Students by SUSAN PASS and WENDY WILLINGHAM agrees with my point. The article says that the student should not be sidetracked by topics of moral absolutism and relativism. Moral absolutism means that only one morality is correct. Relativism is the false belief that if certain ethics are right for one group or person they are correct morally. Basically these biases boil down to the fact that there are no different viewpoints when it comes to moral reasoning. With moral reasoning there is only one right answer. Basically we need to let the students know there are many ways of reasoning and if you bump into these biases you should ask the class if there are any additional suggestions or options. The article goes on and says "there is a real danger of teaching adolescents in a manner that ignores personal or moral development, but focuses entirely on academic achievement. Adolescence is a time of upheaval when young people need guidance" (21).

Galbraith (1979) warns us about using indoctrination, authoritarianism, and relativism. Indoctrination and authoritarianism do not allow the student to explore their sense of ethics, we instead force them to accept or reject what the instructor tells them is true. Relativism also creates a barrier to learning as it destroys systematic ethical philosophies. It assumes that because it is correct for you it is correct for everybody else. Thus it destroys the debates before they begin. What we need to do is to create moral development through discussion.

The article written by that librarian also notes that students are very good at finding illegal forms of electronic media and importing them directly into their PowerPoint or multimedia projects. It also points out that because these projects are usually done at home, there is no oversight from librarians who can help teach the students about copyright and plagiarism. Just recently there has been a state mandate, where this librarian works, that states that every school district will implement the curriculum of Internet safety. There libraries must be I safe certified. Their County has a very strict acceptable use policy which all staff must sign. Classroom teachers need to enforce the 10% or 30 second rule for using proprietary digital media. In short, they talk about their fair use agreements and copyright laws and the importance of sighting sources. In fact at Thomas Dale no student can copy a paper, either their own or a siblings paper that took the course in the past, or from online sources, because the school has a database with all previous papers ever submitted to that school and of course they have a program that will search this database and the Internet for similar papers. The article said it was a powerful incentive for students not to plagiarize. This is of course because the students do not want to get caught, not because they feel guilty or possess any ethical responsibility not to plagiarize. When I read this I thought this would be something cool to test so I found a similar program called Viper and I have had a lot of fun checking to see if the author themselves have plagiarized. At this school they also teach students about how to decide what information you should share and about the importance of being truthful and honest. This way the students know how to use social networking sites appropriately and not spread false rumours. In short it seems they have become very militant to defend copyright in all its forms. Instead of teaching ethics to protect copyright they have used a campaign of threats and coercion to defend it. We have seen the shout comings of these tactics. What they are rely teaching the students is how not to get caught.

So far it seems that students can't think ethically. We have seen that simply telling the students what to and what not to do doesn't work. Even if you just present one side of an ethical issue and use ethical reasoning to defend it that would be a bad idea. You need to present the whole issue and your students need to develop their own views. They need to make judgments and to be able to defend their own viewpoints. We can also see this information will benefit the students as it will allow them to create a fairer and more welcoming environment no matter where they may go.

What is computer ethics?

We have seen that teaching ethics to students is a good idea but what is computer ethics? The word "ethics" is a derivative of the Greek word ethos, which means "customs". This is because these are the guiding beliefs on the ideals that defined a community. This is why I think we use the word ethics to talk about professional ethics and not the word morals which relate to oneself. It is of course possibly that someone's ethics may conflict with their morals. Ethics consists of statements that tell us how the world should be. Everything we do and do not do can be a possible subject for ethical evaluation.

When reading about computer ethics, most people view it as separate from regular ethics.

Kallman and Grillo state that there is no actual special category for computer ethics but the ethical situations in which computers are involved have drastically changed the situation. Computers have addressed the concerns related to free speech, jurisdiction, anonymity, and trust. There are also some concerns about the characteristics of personal information on the Internet. In short the Internet has made it so everybody can be an author and the author can be anonymous. This has led to problems with trust. If anyone can publish, how can we trust the information? It has also led to questions about free speech because the Internet is so anonymous people can write or do whatever they want. They can publish hateful messages and commit hate crimes. Another problem is that the Internet is global and different countries have different laws so who has jurisdiction when a law is broken? Some countries have erected a global firewall to censor the population to unwanted political or social views. Lastly there is a problem with what people put up online regarding privacy. I did not really understand this issue but that is not the point. The point is that computers have made these problems more wide spread and prevalent and yes these topics were talked about in the regular ethics, but they were talked about individually. In computers they all come at the same time and converge in different ways to create a new set of issues Moor has a nice way to address it . He views computer ethics as a specific field where we identify policy vacuums that before the computer did not exist. He states that computer ethics attempts to clarify conceptual confusion surrounding these issues and to formulate and justify new policies in areas with either no policies or policies that have been broken. So who would be the best people to study this new form of ethics? In the article, On the Importance of Teaching Professional Ethics to Computer Science Students, Gordana and Dodig-Crnkovic has an interesting idea. They say that In order to understand computer ethics problems we need a new type of person. We need someone who understands the cultural roles that computers play and they also have to have an understanding of the technical details of the problem. In short we need someone who understands social ramifications as well as the computer science part. Thus it makes sense to teach computer ethics with computer science. So not only is it part of our computer science framework but people with technical knowledge are better suited for computer ethics. The next question would be what ethical theories should be used in the classroom. It is of course not appropriate to attempt to use religious ethical theories so what should we use? Should we use utilitarian or virtue ethics? One article I read said that a number of philosophers have argued that traditional ethical theories cannot be applied to all computer ethics issues. These ethical theories include deontological, utilitarian, and aretaic (virtue ethics) theories. I also read another article that suggested we use a hybrid approach. It recommends that high school students can easily use Kantian ethics and virtue ethics to reach an ethical decision. The students must find a solution to which both of the ethical theories apply.

So far we have seen that Computer ethics is different that regular ethics. I have demonstrated ways in which the computer technology has created voids in policies and how technology has changed ethical thinking. Lastly I have shown that it takes techniquly minded people to understand computer ethics. Thus there is a need for computer science students to understand ethics. We have seen that students will benefit from a course in ethics and we have also seen what computer ethics is. We have also talked about some benefits along the way so now let's take a look at other benefits in teaching our students ethics

Reasons why

There are many benefits in teaching ethics to our students. The NCSS says that ethics is an essential component for social participation and interpersonal relationships then students need to create and express their own personal convictions as part of their ethical decision-making process. In fact even John Dewey recognizes the need to teach moral judgment to students. The article goes on to say that ethical thinking gives students the ability to imagine and explore possibilities before they make a judgment. As students apply ethics to real-life scenarios they not only develop their sense of ethics but they also develop higher-order thinking skills. When students are thinking ethically they're working at the top three levels of Bloom's taxonomy. They are using creativity, synthesis and analysis.

As already mentioned, computers have created many ethical issues that have not existed in the past. When people are working on computers they miss the face-to-face contact of working with people. They are indirectly removed by the machine, as such; they do not see the moral ramifications of their actions. They do not think about other people when making decisions. This means that as teachers we need to talk about these issues. We need to get our students to think about the world in which they like to live. They need to develop a code of conduct. They need to think about how they treat other people, even people they don't see. Computers have created new forms of media which are more interactive. Now anybody has the ability to communicate globally. They can be anonymous. People can copy and reproduce any form of digital information. This new form of technology poses many problems. Hackers could use remote terminals to break into systems. They may or may not have a malicious intent. They could be simply testing their skills as a hacker and in doing so may actually help by pointing out holes in the security. So does the Intent make this action ethical or is it still unethical because the person broke in. Another problem is the copying of proprietary works. The author or creators rely on income by selling their software to people who are willing to buy their product. If the people who are willing to buy the product get it for free, then the creator loses money. Not only do authors have to worry about their works being copied, confidential records can be easily copied between databases. Another worry is about what types of information governments or corporations collect about us. This is known as the big brother fear. It is important to tell students they have the right to view any information on any database regarding themselves. This is known as the freedom of information act. The whole arsenal of ethical issues can be drawn from the field of artificial intelligence alone. The interest and effect will become even more prominent as time marches forward Deborah Hurley (2000) presents the idea that computer devices will soon be part of our clothing and even part of our bodies such as biochips and implants. The ethical implications will continue to advance.

There are a lot of issues related to computer ethics and as the technology evolves and becomes more integrated into the social aspects of everyday life, there becomes a stronger need to teach students about ethics and what it means to behave ethically.

Lastly we are teaching our students computer science. Computer science is a profession and as such it has a code of conduct. What I mean to say is that we have several professional organizations and each has its own code of conduct. There is ACM, AITP and IEEE-CS. We are teaching our students computer science and ethics is an integral part of it. In class we talked about how most students will not pursue computer science in any form of postsecondary studies. My counter argument to this is just because they are not taking post secondary studies, does not mean they won't develop programs in the future. So it is up to us to teach them to think ethically about the software they create. Just look at the ruins of the past when programmers and programs failed. There was The explosion of the area and five rocket in 1996 or the Therac-25 machine which gave people too much radiation. Computer science has direct impact on the quality of people's lives and they must take into account the health safety and welfare of the public. It is<= a professional code of conduct that makes acting ethically the norm. It outlines their responsibilities to themselves and the public code acts as an educational tool providing a focal point for discussion as it talks about professional conduct. I think it would be a good idea to make a professional code of conduct with your class. This could work as a classroom management strategy. In your class you want your students to act ethically. You do not want them to copy and paste code from the Internet. You do not want them to disrespect each other. You want assignments in on time. I could go on and on but to sum it all up you want your students to act professionally.

In this section we again looked at all the specific ethical issues from this it is easy to see all the negative effects they can have on our students. We need to teach them ethics so they can think about each situation as the need arises and while we do this we are teaching them vital skills. We are teaching the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy. If this is not an enough reason to convince you we are teaching them a profession and with that profession comes ethical obligations. These obligations can be imported into your classroom to create a better richer learning environment. We have seen that Computer ethics is a new distinctive field that your students can learn a great deal from and we have also seen that the students will benefit emencily. If your still not convinced the framework says we have to teach ethics and we mine as well do it right.

Dodig-Crnkovic, G. (n.d.). On the Importance of Teaching Professional Ethics to Computer Science Students. Retrieved November 4, 2010, from

Herman, T. (2001). The state of computer ethics as a philosophical field of inquiry: Some contemporary perspectives, future projections, and current resources . Ethics and Information Technology, 3, 97 - 108.

Hindi, N. M. (2002). Computer Literacy: Implications for Teaching a College-Level Course. Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 13(2), 143 - 152.

Lehman, K. (2009). Teaching Information Ethics to High School Students. Library Media Connection, v27, p28-30.

Pass, S. (2009). Teaching Ethics to High School Students. Social Studies, v100 n1, p23-30.

Rikowski, R. (n.d.). Teaching ethical issues in Information Technology: how and when . Retrieved November 4, 2010, from